U.S. Navy ship overall material conditions have had a negative trend for the last three years, driven by lower readiness scores in surface ships and submarines, the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) said in its 2020 annual report.

INSURV conducts acceptance trials to independently verify the readiness of ships before they joint the fleet as well as periodic inspections of current ships to make sure they are in proper working condition.

The Navy Department’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) logo.

According to the board’s newest report, published March 1, the board conducted 55 inspections, largely consisting of 36 material inspections of current ships and 15 trials for new ships. All material inspections were conducted with only minimal notice to the crews, which INSURV said is 30 days.

INSURV said material inspections serve three purposes to help ensure fleet material readiness issues are identified and addressed: to determine and report on an individual ship’s fitness for further service and a six-year comparative view; identify areas of degraded material readiness that impact a ship’s ability to carry out assigned missions; and provide feedback to Fleet Commanders, System Commanders, Type Commanders, Immediate Superior in Charge (ISIC), and ship commanding officers on recommendations for improving material readiness.

Although the report does not name which ships were inspected, it said INSURV conducted material inspections on three Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers, one Nimitz-class carrier, one Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), one Independence-variant LCS, one Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, one Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship, one Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship, one Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship, three Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, five Los Angeles-class attack submarines, and two Virginia-class attack submarines.

The report couched the negative trend in the fleet’s overall material condition over the last three years as staying within a standard deviation of the six-year average.

“Surface ship and submarine inspections drove this trend. The single [aircraft carrier] inspection executed this year resulted in a score near the 6-year CVN average. [Military Sealift Command] inspections show a slight positive trend, albeit with a small (4-ship) sample size. Overall, some functional areas and subsystems remain degraded or show declining trends, indicative of areas where material readiness is stressed,” the report said.

INSURV scored ship areas on a scale from 0.00 to 1.00. Scores are broken down into 0.00-0.59 as unsatisfactory, 0.60-0.79 as degraded, and 0.08-1.00 as satisfactory.

On a chart listing functional areas inspected on surface ships over the past six years, 11 areas were evaluated as degraded. This includes main propulsion, electrical, damage control, deck, anti-submarine warfare, operations, weapons systems, Aegis weapon system, aviation, ventilation, and environmental protection. The lowest score was deck at 0.69. All other degraded scores ranged from 0.70 to 0.79.

The report said this was an increase of two more degraded areas over 2019 and an increase of three over the six-year average.

“The surface force makes up the bulk of Fleet ships inspected each year. The surface force showed a declining trend in average IFOM [INSURV Figure Of Merit], but this decline is within a standard deviation of the 6-year average.”

The only significant area inspection improvement from six years ago is information systems, which improved from 0.69 in 2015 to 0.83 or higher over the past five years.

INSURV Annual Report, FY 2020, Figure 5.1, 6-Year Surface Ship Functional Area Scores. (Image: U.S. Navy).
INSURV Annual Report, FY 2020, Figure 5.1, 6-Year Surface Ship Functional Area Scores. (Image: U.S. Navy).

Beyond the 11 degraded areas, 14 areas were scored below the six-year average, only three above the average (information systems, supply, and ventilation), and four were neutral to the average (auxiliaries, electrical, habitability, and preservation).

Functional areas that scored below the average were main propulsion, damage control, deck, mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare, operations, navigation, weapons systems, Aegis weapons systems, communications, aviation, Navy Occupational Safety and Health (NAVOSH), environmental protection, and medical.

Similarly, the fiscal year 2020 submarine IFOM “showed a decline from FY19 that is within one standard deviation of the 6-year average. Overall, for submarines, two functional areas were evaluated as degraded.”

The degraded areas are auxiliaries and combat system, scored at 0.79 and 0.78, respectively. No other systems were below satisfactory at any time in the past six years.

However, nine areas were scored as below the six-year average, five above, and three neutral.

Those falling below the average include auxiliaries, combat systems, operations, deck, supply, habitability, NAVOSH, environmental protection, and medical. Areas above the average are damage control, information systems, survivability/escape, preservation and strategic systems. The neutral areas to the average were main propulsion, electrical, and navigation.